By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Brunei, the largest shareholder in Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC), has agreed to sell a 37 percent stake to India's two largest importers and producers of fertilisers in a deal worth around $130 million, the Amman stock exchange said on Sunday.
Indian Potash Limited and Kisan International Trading FZE, a subsidiary of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO), bought the stake in Jordan's largest mining and chemical company from Kamil Holdings Limited, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, the exchange said in a statement.
Brunei brought the stake in 2006 from Jordan when the country was seeking to attract foreign investment in an IMF-guided privatisation scheme to sell stakes in key state enterprises.
The Brunei deal, which aimed to put the indebted and loss-making company on a sounder financial footing, was later criticised by Jordan's parliament for alleged corruption, part of a backlash against privatisation and economic nationalism that swept the country.
Industry sources say Brunei has been trying to divest its JPMC holding after former CEO Walid Kurdi, a relative of the royal family who fled the country in 2012, was given a 22 year prison sentence in absentia on charges of embezzlement of millions of dollars.
Jordan had said more recently it wanted to buy back the shares but plans to regain control of some key companies, including JPMC, did not go ahead.
The Amman stock exchange said the transaction involved the sale of 30.5 million shares to the Indian companies at 2.98 dinars ($4.20) per share. JPMC's shares closed at 3.3 dinars on Sunday.
Canada's Potash Corp and Japan's Mitsubishi were also in the running to buy the stake, an industry source familiar with the deal said.
JPMC is one of the largest producers of phosphates in the world, producing up to seven million tonnes a year of rock phosphates, used as to make crop fertilizers.
The company has in the last two decades expanded joint ventures with Indian and Japanese firms seeking investment opportunities overseas to secure requirements to meet fast growing fertiliser demand.
JPMC has mining rights over 1 billion tonnes of the country’s 1.5 billion tonnes of proven reserves of phosphate, according to company estimates.
The company has in the last two years embarked on a major restructuring plan to reduce 440 million dinars of debts and cut costs. Its losses were cut in half last year from 90 million to 46.6 million dinars.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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Updated Date: May 28, 2018 00:05:08 IST